Starbucks and the Social Construction of Reality
Sara and I are having breakfast at a Bangkok Starbucks. Being a kee niaow, or stingy, species of curmudgeon, I’m complaining about everything from the prices to the clonish docking of people and their digital devices. Discerning impatience in her manner, I eventually desist.
“Give me a break,” she says, going on to explain that Starbucks doesn’t sell coffee; it sells a lifestyle experience, and I should dummy up about it, she’s trying to relax.
Ah, I reply. So we’re banking some sort of lifestyle karma here, and it’s probably cheap at the price.
Sara says I have a talent for turning what should be a simple cup of coffee and a dose of lifestyle experience into a mountain of mumbo-jumbo and a pain in the ass, and I believe she could be right. Nevertheless.
Speeding away on caffeine, I tell her that realitsy is a social construct. Once people start to recognize this, even only tacitly, then the construction of social reality becomes big business, with advertising, public relations, politicians and special interest groups all packaging and selling their own realities. The mass of the people are consumers, then, of realities. Reality is basically a range of supermarket commodities, and you just stroll along picking glitzy packages off the shelves. Choosing our “lifestyles” and personalities du jour is part of this. (Consumerism-infused New Age thinking is no exception.)
Modular mix and matching rools, OK! I am my iPhone, not to mention my Timberland shoes, Levi’s 501 jeans and the Melody Gardot on my iPod. That’s this week. Maybe I’ll let Jack the Hack Shackaway be my lifestyle/personal image mentor next week, and wear a tie, maybe carry a nicely rumpled sports jacket in case I find myself subjected to Bangkok hi-so grade air-conditioning, ducking in to some flash establishment to seek shelter from the rain and not wanting then to die of exposure. Yeah, and that week I’ll be plugged in to Dion singing “St. Jerome the Thunderer” over and over again till I can’t get it out of my head even when I wrench the earphones out and moan and clasp my head with both hands.
“You always know best,” says Sara. “What makes you think you’re better?”
Son of iMac, spawn of the Devil
Some lads my age buy themselves a Harley, or a nice gun-metal Lamborghini. Instead, I’ve recently switched from PC to Apple and bought a secondhand state-of-the-art 27” iMac desktop.
I’ve suffered the transition to a new operating system, familiarized myself with 1,000 new key commands for a bunch of new programs, and learned interesting things such as how you really need a UPS and how incredibly expensive a UPS really is for this particular computer, and that, no matter how mature and savvy and well-versed in the pathology of consumerism and how it relates to the failure of the Western metaphysic and the hard-wired shitheadedness of the average specimen of Homo sapiens, I can still find myself in the position I am now in, with Sara saying I did the right thing, and I should just relax and enjoy it, and there, there, you aren’t really a moron, though I know she secretly believes I am, and delights in this circumstance.
Especially after I found how inconvenient it was to lug the 27” iMac along to the coffee shop with me. That’s right. So I pretty well had to buy a Mac Pro laptop as well, eh?
Hey, but now I’m the dude.